TriComB2B Blogger - Andrew Humphrey

Avoid Attendee Burnout: A Trade Show Survival Guide

Andrew Humphrey

This past spring, I attended Automate, a trade show featuring advancements in robotics, automation and machine learning. Though obviously competing in products and technologies, most display booths were unified in a shared vision for the future: to take the mundane tasks performed in your average distribution center away from the human workforce while moving people into more exciting and fulfilling jobs. 

The company booths that stood out cleverly showcased what their products could do; robots played xylophones, spelled complicated sentences out of children’s building blocks, and even served beers to visitors. What really set them apart, however, was the added enthusiasm and friendliness exhibited by booth workers. They genuinely seemed delighted to talk to their guests and demonstrate how awesome their products and solutions truly are.

Unfortunately, not all booth workers were so spirited. I won’t call anyone out specifically, but it was not uncommon to see physical fatigue on the faces of some or complete boredom in others. It would be unfair to blame their malaise on a lack of product greatness; many of the booths had incredible things to share. Somewhere down the line, either from being overworked, mismanaged or potentially both, the human touch simply came up short.  

And to think, the theme of this trade show was to showcase how automation would take people away from boring jobs. The irony wasn’t lost on me.

The Show Must Go On 

Within reason, companies need to put their audience’s expectations above their own needs. Even if a trade show’s theme won’t render the same inherently ironic twist as the anecdote above describes, attendee burnout can be detrimental. Particularly in B2B spaces, trade shows are among the most effective ways to generate new, qualified leads (Endless Events). Your attendants could very well be the first interaction a potential lead has with your brand. There’s simply no room for boredom.

A trade show or event obviously isn’t Broadway, and hopefully you’re not merely “acting the part”. The best way to exhibit excitement for your products or solutions is to be legitimately excited.

But if excitement about your products isn’t quite sustaining you, consider other simple things you can do both physically and mentally to keep your energy up.

Striking the Right Nutritional Balance

Before blowing that fancy per-diem at the gastropub or pizza parlor, remember that you may have a long week ahead of you. For many travelers, especially when visiting new places, exploring the local culinary scene can be a great way to experience what makes a city unique. If this is true for you, don’t burn yourself out with heavy meals. 

However, don’t skip meals. It can be easy to do at trade shows because you may be on your feet for 10-hour days (or longer). Avoid this as much as you can in order to give your body the needed calories and nutrients it needs to stay energized.

If you rely on energy bars, you may want to rethink that plan too. While offering a fair amount of protein, they can contain excessive sugars that will inevitably lead to a crash. Healthy snacks like blueberries, strawberries or nuts are a much more strategic choice when it comes to keeping yourself peppy for your booth visitors (WebMD).

Go Easy on the Caffeine

Another common mistake is filling up on coffee for a quick energy boost. Again, this is very easy to do at trade shows because it’s available at virtually every turn, and coffee is an inherently sociable beverage choice. But simply consuming coffee is not sustainable. Eventually, the caffeine will backfire, leaving you feeling depleted, anxious and foggy-headed. Worst of all, the excess caffeine in your system may prohibit you from getting a good night’s sleep later.

In between cups of coffee, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay energized. Coffee doesn’t dehydrate you per se, but drinking water is never a bad strategy (Business Insider). If you want a more flavorful option, consider sparkling water or flavor additives.

Plan to Get Some Sleep

Depending on how you’re traveling, you may encounter some unexpected scenarios that will make it difficult to sleep.

For example, if you’re flying and need to squeeze in a few hours of sleep, bring a neck pillow so you can sleep upright in your seat. A sleep mask will help protect your eyes from a sudden beam of light entering the cabin. Download a white noise app for your smartphone and pack headphones to tune out the noises around you. And if possible, wear something comfortable for the flight’s duration.

These are extreme scenarios, but it’s important to have the tools to help you get a good night’s rest. You may have to deviate from these plans, especially if city nightlife is part of your traveling equation, but planning ahead can help you adapt quickly.

Spend Your “Vocal Budget” Wisely

One of your goals should be to have plenty of conversations with scores of interested leads. But there’s a lot of ambient noise to compete with at a trade show as you have discussions: industrial-sized room fans, nearby conversations, etc. Any classroom teacher can tell you that this is a perfect recipe for vocal strain.  

Plan to treat your vocal cords like a financial budget with a finite spend. If you can get away with lowering the volume of your conversation a few decibels, do it. Try rehearsing some of the common talking points you’re likely to deploy prior to the show and see if there are ways to economize your word choices as much as possible. Don’t script something, but practice makes perfect! 

Listening more than just talking to (or rather at) your visitors will not only help you save your vocal budget, but it will give you more meaningful interactions with your leads too. Try and let them articulate what their problems are, instead of trying to guess on their behalf. They’ll be happier as interested prospects, and you can avoid getting burned out by repeating the same few lines ad nauseam.

Even if your throat isn’t hurting after the first day, try to take a preemptive approach to healing your voice each evening (NIH). Allot some dedicated downtime for yourself to completely rest it.

Shake It Out

You may be confined in the same area for lengthier stretches of time. For some, this can instill anxiety or boredom. If you get an opportunity to take a break and walk the show floor, you can get your blood flowing and let your body energize itself. Another added benefit is that it will give you a chance to see other exhibits. Take mental notes to inspire some ideas for next year!

The Event Marketing Experience

No matter what event you and your team are attending, big or small, enjoy your time on the showroom floor and share your company’s great products and solutions with visitors. You don’t always need musically talented robots to start conversations. Your enthusiasm alone can get visitors excited about your booth. Take care of yourself and avoid attendee fatigue by utilizing a few of the tips I mentioned. If you do that, you’ll enjoy meaningful discussions with your audience, helping them to better understand how your company can provide them with the business solutions they’re seeking.

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